Faces of Israel: Wisconsin Camps Tour

posted on august 4, 2011

I just returned from a week in Wisconsin where I presented Faces of Israel at three Jewish summer camps.  My trip started off with a quick flight to Madison, where I visited JCC Camp Chi and was treated to a stay at the lovely Perlman Resort.  I met with the Staff-in-Training on Thursday evening for a session that ran at just under 2 hours and explored hot topics in Israel, and broke the SITs into smaller discussion groups, allowing for deeper conversation.  My visit to Camp Chi was quite short, however I was invited to attend and present at the Friday morning staff think tank before leaving.  I gave an overview of religion and state issues in Israel and why they matter, and held a Q&A – all over breakfast donuts, making the session that much sweeter.

The 4-hour drive north to Rhinelander went by fairly quickly as the scenery was beautiful and I did a phone-training on the Faces of Israel educational materials for a couple of camps.  Upon arrival at Ramah Wisconsin, I found that a synchronized swimming competition in the camp lake was well underway.  The competition was a riot and I was generally impressed by the quality and quantity of theatrical productions during my visit (Mamma Mia, Pippin, God of Our Fathers, A Capella and V Monologues over four days).   I spent a warm and welcoming Shabbat at Ramah that was followed by hours of programming on Sunday and Monday.  While at Ramah, I ran Israel seminars and programming for campers going into the 8th, 9th and 10th grades as well as staff sessions.  Good questions were asked and after holding a brief materials training for the camp’s educational director, I left Ramah feeling like I made a difference.

The trip to JCC Camp Interlaken was quick and I arrived at camp in the thick of their “Man vs. Beast”-themed Maccabiah day.  As the festivities came to a close, I stole the 10th graders for an evening session marked by thoughtful commentary about religious pluralism.  One camper shared that when she thinks of religion and state issues in the United States, her mind turns to the president signing off the State of the Union with “God bless America.”  Tuesday was very eventful as the powerful crack of a lightning-struck tree frighteningly awoke many of us at 5:15 am, and the subsequent weather warning brought the entire camp into storm shelters.  But it was all part of the experience and I managed to squeeze in a Faces of Israel staff training before heading back to Denver last night.

The Wisconsin tour brings my camp visits to a close for Summer 2011, but – if you find yourself in Colorado this week – make sure to join us for communal Faces of Israel programs in Denver and Boulder today and Sunday!

written by amy beth oppenheimer